Parliament’s new Speaker, Adrian Ruawhe, has had to apologise for former Speaker Trevor Mallard to former NZFirst Leader Winston Peters over his being trespassed from Parliament’s grounds following the February anti-vax protest there.
And in doing so he has (hopefully) brought to an end one of this year’s more tortuous sagas which has been marked by all the hallmarks of any Peters campaign; bluster, outrage, conspiracy theories and a stream of abusive media statements.
The apology is pending final approval by the High Court in Wellington, which is expected to also impose costs in favour of Peters.
POLITIK understands that Ruawhe had to issue the apology in his name because Peters failed to agree on the wording of the apology press statement before Mallard resigned as Speaker on Wednesday afternoon.
It marks the end of what has amounted to one of the great grudge matches of New Zealand politics between Mallard and Peters.
In his reaction yesterday to the Court decision, Peters seemed to have been guided by the “Yes Minister’ aphorism; “in victory revenge” — inevitably not missing the chance to refer to Mallard’s appointment as Ambassador Ireland.
“What is astonishing is that the Prime Minister announced Mr Mallard’s appointment despite knowing all of the details behind his apology – including his self-admitted irrational and unreasonable behaviour,” said Peters.
“With this added to his past record of wrongfully accusing a parliamentary staffer of rape – costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, spraying people, including children, with cold water, and yet still appointing him in an ambassadorial role, shows an unmeasurable depth of contempt for all New Zealanders and indeed to the people of Ireland.”
This saga began back in February after anti-vax protesters camped on Parliament’s front lawn.
On February 23, Peters joined the anti-vax protest camp for a few hours along with his party president and former MP, Darroch Ball.
The protesters had by that stage all been issued with trespass warnings.
“My presence at the protest yesterday was for one reason and one reason only – to show that if any politician has the guts to go and engage, they can,” he said.
“It was not to endorse the protest or protesters, nor of course, to signal any sort of support for the minority who continue to exhibit violent behaviour.
“It is plain to see that if the dialogue is not established soon, things will just continue to get much worse.
“The protest should never have been allowed to grow to become so entrenched and able to fester to the boiling point of violence that we are now witnessing.
“Small anti-establishment and disruptive groups have been given an open door to clash with law enforcement at every opportunity and have been inexcusably painted by media as the face and nature of the entire protest. Those groups need to be dealt with swiftly and without sympathy.”\
And then came the opening salvo in the Peters v Mallard firefight.
“Make no mistake, the government has created the environment for this violence to take hold, and the Speaker of the House has inexplicably continued to throw fuel on the fire with his juvenile power-drunk behaviour,” said a Peters press statement.
And there matters more or less rested.
Except that on April 28, Mallard issued a trespass notice against Peters – who inadvertently missed the notice in his mail and only publicly acknowledged it a week after it was sent.
“I have found out that the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, has trespassed me from parliament grounds for a period of two years,” a statement from him on May 5 said.
“This dictatorial behaviour by Mallard, supported by Labour, should be reserved for third world banana republics. “
The notice meant that peters was barred from Parliament’s grounds and buildings for two years.
And, of course, Peters saw a conspiracy behind the trespass notice (which he had initially inadvertently missed in his mail)
“What’s more astounding is that the Speaker of the House of Representatives in our country could possibly attempt to trespass former Members of Parliament – of whom some are leaders of political parties planning to run against the sitting government in around eighteen months.
“New Zealanders should not put up with this type of totalitarian behaviour from the Speaker – nor should the Prime Minister or Parliament.
“It is because of this that I have taken legal advice and will continue to do so. Speaker Mallard has lost the plot and will continue to do so if he thinks he can enforce his unreasonable and unlawful decision. “
Then followed on the same day, two more press statements within hours of each other calling for Allard to be held to account and to face a vote of no confidence.
Speaker Mallard then unwittingly poured more petrol on the flames with his own statement.
He reported that 151 trespass notices had been issued in relation to the occupation.
“Of this number, 144 were for people arrested by Police during the occupation,” Mallard’s statement said.
And then came the bit Peters was to object to.
“An additional seven notices were issued to persons of interest.
“Of these, five trespass notices have since been withdrawn as the persons are now thought unlikely to seriously offend or incite others to commit serious offences.
“The other two notices will remain in force.”
The five were (apparently) Peters, Ball, Matt King, Rodney Hide and Marama Fox — all former MPs.)
It seems Peters objected to the phrase “as the persons are now thought unlikely to seriously offend or incite others to commit serious offences.”
The reason given by the Prime Minister for Speaker Trevor Mallard’s resignation is not the full truth and can be nothing other than an attempted cover-up,” says Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First.
Peters then had his solicitors send Mallard a letter.
“In that letter, it was made clear that there would be court action taken against Mr Mallard if he did not provide specific explanations, documents, and referenced authority with which he, in a free and democratic society, trespassed hundreds of New Zealand citizens from the Nation’s Parliament.”
Mallard had announced his resignation from Parliament, and so, a new conspiracy.
“Both Mallard and the Prime Minister knew that he was facing potential prosecution for his actions, and it can be no coincidence that the announcement of his resignation comes just two weeks after my Solicitor’s letter was sent to his office. If the Prime Minister didn’t know, then Mallard has deliberately kept this information from her.
“If the Prime Minister did know, then there can be no other explanation other than this is an attempt to cover up Mallard’s behaviour and to allow the government to save face.”
Then on June 28, Peters launched his claim for a Judicial Review of Mallard’s actions.
And so to yesterday.
Ruawhe’s statement said: “The Speaker of the House of Representatives has apologised for a trespass notice issued to former Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
“The Speaker has also retracted and apologised for comments which related to Mr Peters in a May 4 press release.
“The Speaker has admitted to the High Court at Wellington that the exercise of power under section 26(2) of the Parliamentary Service Act 2000 to issue Mr Peters a warning under section 4 of the Trespass Act 1980 was unreasonable and irrational.
“He has further admitted to the High Court that issuing the warning was an unjustified limitation on Mr Peters’ right to freedom of movement under section 18 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and that Mr Peters had not acted in any way which justified him being issued with the warning.”
Peters greeted this with a triumphalist statement: “The court action I took against Speaker Trevor Mallard has today resulted in his public apology. This action was taken not for myself, but on behalf of the people of New Zealand to make a stand and fight for our fundamental freedoms, rights, and to protect our democracy.”
Though Peters took the action “on behalf of the people of New Zealand”, he did not include his own party president, who was also the recipient of a Trespass Order, in his action.
The matter must now be confirmed by a High Court Judge and costs apportioned.